Review Before Final Exam

SUBHEAD: It’s time to terminate western industrial civilization before it terminates us. Image above: Classroom test revue at the Truck Driving School of Georgia. From (http://www.cdlofga.com/Services.html). By Guy McPherson on 16 August 2010 in Nature Bats Last - (http://guymcpherson.com/2010/08/a-review-before-the-exam)

Actually, this review is too late for the many people who have already endured economic collapse. As any of those folks can tell the rest of us, we do not want to receive the lesson after the exam.

I’ve written all this before, but I have not recently provided a concise summary. This essay provides a brief overview of the dire nature of our predicaments with respect to fossil fuels. The primary consequences of our fossil-fuel addiction stem from two primary phenomena: Peak Oil and global Climate Change. The former spells the end of western civilization, which might come in time to prevent the extinction of our species at the hand of the latter.

Global climate change threatens our species with extinction by mid-century if we do not terminate the industrial economy soon. Increasingly dire forecasts from extremely conservative sources keep stacking up. Governments refuse to act because they know growth of the industrial economy depends (almost solely) on consumption of fossil fuels. Global climate change and energy decline are similar in this respect: neither is characterized by a politically viable solution.

There simply is no comprehensive substitute for crude oil. It is the overwhelming fuel of choice for transportation, and there is no way out of the crude trap at this late juncture in the industrial era. We passed the world oil peak in 2005, which led to near-collapse of the world’s industrial economy several times between September 2008 and May 2010. And we’re certainly not out of the economic woods yet.

Crude oil is the master material on which all other depend. Without abundant supplies of inexpensive crude oil, we cannot produce uranium (which peaked in 1980), coal (which will peak within a decade or so), solar panels, wind turbines, wave power, ethanol, biodiesel, or hydroelectric power. Without abundant supplies of inexpensive crude oil, we cannot maintain the electric grid. Without abundant supplies of inexpensive crude oil, we cannot maintain the industrial economy for an extended period of time. Simply put, abundance supplies of inexpensive crude oil is fundamental to growth of the industrial economy and therefore to western civilization. Civilizations grow or die. Western civilization is done growing.

Not only is there no comprehensive substitute for crude oil, but partial substitutes simply do not scale. Solar panels on every roof? It’s too late for that. Electric cars in every garage? Its too late for that. We simply do not have the cheap energy requisite to propping up an empire in precipitous decline. Energy efficiency and conservation will not save us, either, as demonstrated by the updated version of Jevons’ paradox, the Khazzoom-Brookes postulate.

Unchecked, western civilization drives us to one of two outcomes, and perhaps both:

(1) Destruction of the living planet on which we depend for our survival, and/or

(2) Runaway greenhouse and therefore the near-term extinction of our species.

Why would we want to sustain such a system? It is immoral and omicidal. The industrial economy enslaves us, drives us insane, and kills us in myriad ways.

We need a living planet. Everything else is less important than the living planet on which we depend for our very lives. We act as if non-industrial cultures do not matter. We act as if non-human species do not matter. But they do matter, on many levels, including the level of human survival on Earth. And, of course, there’s the matter of ecological overshoot, which is where we’re spending all our time since at least 1980. Every day in overshoot brings us 205,000 people to deal with later. In this case, “deal with” means murder.

Shall we reduce Earth to a lifeless pile of rubble within a generation? Or shall we heat the planet beyond human habitability within two generations? Or shall we keep procreating as if there are no consequences for an already crowded planet? Pick your poison, but recognize it’s poison. We’re dead either way.

Don’t slit those wrists just yet. This essay bears good news.

Western civilization has been in decline at least since 1979, when world per capita oil supply peaked coincident with the Carter Doctrine regarding oil in the Middle East. In my mind, and perhaps only there, these two events marked the apex of American Empire, which began about the time Thomas Jefferson — arguably the most enlightened of the Founding Fathers — said, with respect to native Americans: “In war, they will kill some of us; we shall destroy all of them.”

It wasn’t long after 1979 that the U.S. manufacturing base was shipped overseas and we began serious engagement with Wall Street-based casino culture as the basis for our industrial economy. By most economic measure, we’ve experienced a lost decade, so it’s too late for a fast crash of the industrial economy. We’re in the midst of the same slow train wreck we’ve been experiencing for more than a decade, but the train is teetering on the edge of a cliff. Meanwhile, all we want to discuss, at every level in this country, is the quality of service in the dining car.

When the price of crude oil exhibits a price spike, an economic recession soon follows. Every recession since 1972 has been preceded by a spike in the price of oil, and direr spikes translate to deeper recessions. Economic dominoes began to fall at a rapid and accelerating rate when the price of crude spiked to $147.27/bbl in July 2008. They haven’t stopped falling, notwithstanding economic cheerleaders from government and corporations (as if the two are different at this point in American fascism). The reliance of our economy on derivatives trading cannot last much longer, considering the value of the derivatives — like the U.S. debt — greatly exceeds the value of all the currency in the world combined with all the gold mined in the history of the world.

Although it’s all coming down, as it has been for quite a while, it’s relatively clear imperial decline is accelerating. We’re obviously headed for full-scale collapse of the industrial economy, as indicated by these 40 statistics. Even Fortune and CNN agree economic collapse will be complete soon, though they don’t express any understanding of how we arrived at this point or the hopelessness of extracting ourselves from the morass.

We know what economic collapse looks like, because we’re in the midst of it. What does completion of the collapse look? I strongly suspect the economic endgame is capitulation of the stock markets. Shortly after we hit Dow 4,000, within a few days or maybe a couple weeks, the industrial economy seizes up as the lubricant is overcome with sand in the crankcase. Why would anybody work when the company for which they work is, literally, worthless? Even if they show up for a few days to punch the time-clock, the bank will not issue a check, and the banks won’t be open to cash it. It won’t be long before publicly traded utility companies don’t have enough employees to keep the lights on. It won’t be long before gas (nee service) stations shutter the doors. It won’t be long before the grocery stores are empty. It won’t be long before the water stops flowing through the municipal taps.

There are those who question my credibility, particularly when I make predictions. We’re in the midst of a war to save our humanity and the living planet, and some readers are worried about my credibility, as determined by the power of the main stream. My responses are two-fold: (1) I’m hardly sticking my neck out, unlike when I made my “new Dark Age” prediction in 2007 (at which point the price of oil had yet to exceed $80/bbl, the industrial economy appeared headed for perennial nirvana, and everybody who read or heard me thought I was insane); of the fifty or so energy-literate scholars I read, about half indicate the new Dark Age starts within a year, and a large majority of the other half give us less than two years; (2) Get over it. This war has two sides, finally. This revolution needs to be powerful and fun, and we cannot afford to lose. We cannot even afford to worry about seeking credibility from those who would have us are having us murder every remaining aspect of the living planet on which we depend for our survival.

Credibility? Respectability? It’s time to stop playing by the rules of the destroyers. We need witnesses and warriors, and we need them now. It’s time to terminate western civilization before it terminates us.

Lesson over. The exam comes within a couple years. And pop quizzes come up every day in this unfair system.

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DU Unsafe in Hawaii Afterall

SUBHEAD: Visitors to Hawaii military training sites speak up about having to sign a safety waiver. Image above: Army practices with 155mm Howitzer at Pohakuloa Training Area for RIMPAC 2002. The gun fires a varietu of prjeectiles, including Depleted Uranium rounds. From (http://forum.apan-info.net/Fall02/8_18/18.html).
(http://www.bigislandweekly.com/articles/2010/08/11/read/news/news02.txt)
U. S. Army sources have often contended that the depleted uranium left by spent shells on its firing ranges at O'ahu's Schofield Barracks and Hawai'i Island's Pohakuloa Training Area pose no danger to the public. In 2008, Army officials told the Hawaii County Council that DU did not pose a health risk to the public, even though the Saddle Road passes through Pohakuloa Training Area, where DU shell fragments had been found. In a recent letter to Rep. Mazie Hirono, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army Addison Davis, IV, wrote that "Many independent scientific studies of uranium in the environment show that DU presents no significant 'environmental health or safety hazard,' especially at soil concentration of the DU on Hawaii's ranges." "Based on data gathered and careful analysis of the current situation, there is no immediate or imminent health risk to people who work at Schofield Barracks or Pohakuloa Training Area (PTA) or live in communities adjacent to these military facilities from the DU present in the impact areas... Studies conducted by numerous non-military agencies, including the World Health Organization and the Department of Health and Human Services, have not found credible evidence linking DU to radiation-induced illnesses Studies conducted by numerous non-military agencies, including the World Health Organization and the Department of Health and Human Services, have not found credible evidence linking DU to radiation-induced illnesses," claims the Army's DU information website, http://www.imcom.pac.army.mil/du. But the Army took a different position when representatives from several Native Hawaiian groups requested access to the West Range at Schofield Barracks on O'ahu on May 27. Before being allowed into Schofield, all were asked to sign a waiver of responsibility acknowledging, among other things, that they knew DU was potentially hazardous to their health." ...continued. Use link below to see whole article. (http://www.bigislandweekly.com/articles/2010/08/11/read/news/news02.txt) [Editor's note: We've been asked by the Big Island Weekly publisher not to reproduce their articles in full. Our policy is usually to print article whole, but we thought you needed to know about this story.] See also: Ea O Ka Aina: DU Will Remain on Big Island 7/2/10 Ea O Ka Aina: Hawaii DU Plan Useless 4/29/10 Ea O Ka Aina: Big Islanders speak on militarism 3/2/10 Bi Island Hui: Residents Petition NRC on DU 2/24/10 Island Breath: Army Confirms DU at Pohakuloa 8/21/07 Island Breath: DU detected at Big Island Gun Range 5/1/07 Island Breath: Superferry, Stryker Brigade & DU 11/1/06 .

Kauai Beach Setback Corruption

SUBHEAD: To think little Kauai could come up with a process corrupt enough to be used by the masters at DLNR. Image above: Illegal planting barriers on beach on the north shore of Kauai. From (http://repmorita.wordpress.com/2010/04/29/spaced-out-property-assessed-clean-energy). By Andy Park on 15 August 2010 in Parx News Daily - (http://parxnewsdaily.blogspot.com/2010/08/will-it-go-round-in-circles.html) It wouldn’t be the first time the state took a cue from one of the more outrageous abuses of process originating on Kaua`i- and it certainly won’t be the last. But let’s back up a bit. An article in last Thursday’s Honolulu Star-Advertiser announced Changes proposed to state land rules The first revisions in 16 years involve shoreline boundaries and permits It reports that: The first update of conservation land use rules in 16 years would change the shoreline setback, eliminate required permits for activities like weeding and increase fees. The proposed changes, outlined in a 71-page document by the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, are being reviewed through public meetings. Today's will be in Honolulu. The revisions have some environmental organizations concerned. Among the more significant changes would specify shoreline setback, a line past which no structures or coastal alterations are allowed. Numerous lawsuits have been filed over designations of public and private access along the shorelines. Some of the changes will include those required by the Supreme Court of Hawai`i (SCOHI) decision in the case brought by Kaua`i North Shore resident Caren Diamond that redefined the shoreline determination process. But a side bar to the article lists some of the changes the new rules will try to bring about including one that goes unmentioned in the piece: Rules would specify that only people with property interest, residency on the land or anyone directly affected by a permit can appeal. Rules now state that "any person" can appeal to the department. Now maybe they missed it but that rule would apparently fly in the face of a more recent SCOHI case, County of Hawaii v. Ala Loop Homeowners, which essentially held that any land use effects the environment and that triggers Article XI, Section 9 of the Hawai`i State Construction which reads: Each person has the right to a clean and healthful environment, as defined by laws relating to environmental quality, including control of pollution and conservation, protection and enhancement of natural resources. Any person may enforce this right against any party, public or private, through appropriate legal proceedings, subject to reasonable limitations and regulation as provided by law That would seem to preempt any restriction on who can sue when it comes to “land use rules” of the DLNR. So what does this have to do with Kaua`i? The use of administrative rules to try to define-out-of-existence provisions of the county charter- the county’s equivalent of a constitution- was the central issue of the two year Kaua`i Board of Ethics (BOE) brouhaha when county attorneys used both a county ordinance and the BOE’s rules to narrow the plain reading of Section 20.02(D) of the charter which bans county employees and board and commission members from “appear(ing) on behalf of private interests” before other boards and commission. Apparently the DLNR may be paying attention to our local shenanigans and are attempting to slip through a rule that could at least temporarily bog down what land use attorneys across the state have called a “newly created right”- that of private citizens to sue over land use decisions. It’s enough to make a local good old boy’s chest swell with pride to think little Kaua`i could come up with a process corrupt enough to be used by the masters at DLNR. .

Why A Person Learns

SUBHEAD: “You are just another brick in the wall” (Pink Floyd!). Setting up a system that insists that every student go through a common curriculum is a formula for failure. Image above: A Waldorf School classroom in Toronto, Cananda. A education system with a holistic learning philosophy. From (http://www.torontowaldorfschool.com/home/index.php). By George Mobus on 15 August 2010 in Question Everything - (http://questioneverything.typepad.com/question_everything/2010/08/why-a-person-learns-and-what-it-means-for-education.html)

What the Hell is Wrong with Education Now?

I must admit I am deeply troubled by the continuing conversation about education that is going on in the echelons of government (No Child Left Behind), the elite corporate heads (need for higher order technical and soft skills), and the science/math cognoscenti (America is falling behind in producing scientists and engineers).

The country as a whole seems to be self-flagellating over the fact that the vast majority of students in middle and high school don't go into science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (known by the acronym STEM). There is a predominant myth floating about our society that the workers of tomorrow will be knowledge workers who need to have all the advanced knowledge and skills in order for the U.S. to compete in the global marketplace (see writings of Tom Friedman - The World Is Flat). The presumption is that everyone in a modern technological society needs to be STEM-enabled or else we will fail to compete globally.

Here is a wake up call America (and other OECDs* who think the same way). Not every human being is enthralled with STEM topics. There are, in fact, so many fallacies here that I hardly know where to begin. The big one, of course, is that technology (and science/engineering, etc) advanced in a world where ever more energy flowed to support growth and development and now that is coming to an end.

Energy flow is on the way down and so the amount of wealth production that can be diverted to technical advances will soon be declining as well. The era of progress is over or soon will be so.

Of course the majority of all these so-called leaders in government, business, and education are completely blind to this reality. They are thinking about a future world that is just like the one we have now. They want to prepare for a world that is based on our long history of growth in energy availability because that is all they can imagine. Pity.

But the more subtle (and operative) fallacy is the belief that all human beings have the same capacity to learn these subjects. And by capacity I do not mean intelligence per se. I mean that they have the predisposition to find STEM subjects, well, fun. In fact this idea completely ignores the majority of personality psychology research that shows clearly that different people have different interests and tendencies from very early ages (and is largely influenced by genetic propensities).

And here is the simple truth. Only a small number of people in the population find the content of what we call science and math curricula fascinating. The reason more people don't pursue STEM fields is really very simple. They don't like them and they don't, as a consequence, learn them. Yet in spite of how simple this fact is, our brilliant STEM practitioners and civil/government leaders wring their hands wondering why our education system is failing to produce yet more practitioners.

They note how foreign countries seem to be more successful at producing more scientists and engineers and 'by golly' we should be able to do the same. Of course what they forget to consider is the vast differences in cultures, the fact that some of these so-called 'successful' countries have vastly larger populations seeking ways out of low income (motivation) and other factors that if taken into account would show that they are really no more successful than are we in the US. I have numerous students from India, and many Asian countries who do well enough in our higher education system, especially on the rote fact learning side. But I don't see much difference in their ability to practice critical thinking or meta-learning than any native US students.

In spite of this very simple fact our STEM curricula are designed as if every student has the potential to become a STEM practitioner. In other words, we assume the they all need to learn the same basic content which would prepare them to enter a STEM major and become the oh-so wanted scientists and engineers who are going to save our way of life.

We literally shove STEM down students' throats from an early age (usually getting earnest in middle school). And what is the result? Not only do we turn most (and believe me I do mean MOST) students off on the whole education process, but I suspect a damaging side effect has been that even a few students who would learn to appreciate and dedicate themselves to STEM subjects are so turned off that they turn their backs on any further pursuit beyond what is absolutely required (e.g. Biology 101 in college for a general education subject). I wager that we actually end up losing students who might end up pursuing careers in STEM simply because of the heavy-handed, fact-learning way we pursue these topics.

Actually it really isn't much different for many other humanities subjects as well. Courses are pretty universally taught on the basis of ‘here is the factual information you need, now learn it’ basis. The possible exceptions are in the fine arts! And, ironically, at the same time we are talking about how to beef up STEM education we are talking about cutting fine arts programs. Why? Well because the energy-constrained economic downturn has decimated education budgets and, well, something has to go.

How Should We Design Education

Bear something in mind as you read what follows. I am not writing for you or the current society. I suffer no more illusions that the people of minimal sapience that make up the majority of our social milieu would ever be able to grasp these arguments (you might, but I doubt that there is much more than agree with me that you could do!) I write this with the expectation that one day, after the collapse of our society (and the potential evolutionary bottleneck), those who survive and want to build a better society will grasp that we (the current society) made horrendous mistakes in the way we approached education. With a little luck this will provide some guidance. Or maybe, if my hope for high sapient survivors comes to pass, they really won't need any guidance. It seems like an exercise is futility in some ways, but humor me.

The title of this blog entry says it all. If we understood why people (from the youngest child to the oldest adult) learn anything at all, they we would understand how to design education systems to assist them achieve their own goals and motivations without shoving so-called knowledge down their throats.

There have been some extraordinary advancements in both asking the question of why people learn at all (also how they learn) in the field of psychology (see, for example: Montessori method, Constructivism for several examples). In spite of some criticisms of some of this work (like the examples), the fact is that these investigations were asking the right questions and starting the investigation of how education should be designed to match the answers (if we had them).

There is a lot we know, thanks to these and many other investigations. We know that every human is a learning machine. You cannot prevent humans from learning. Humans are naturally and generally inquisitive, curious, and motivated to gather information that ‘might’ come in handy one day. Humans are informavores.

We also know that every individual operates at their own given pace. The insistence on an age-based grade level system is ludicrous; a pure invention of the industrial revolution applied to schools (Alvin Toffler describes this phenomenon as part of the Second Wave, the ideas implicit in the industrial revolution applied to all areas of society). But, perhaps most important is that we know that different humans have vastly different interests and they are most motivated to learn the details of those subjects in life that interest them the most.

Setting up a system that insists that every student go through a common curriculum is a formula for failure. As we have experienced. There are so many different dimensions to personalities that make it literally impossible to force every type through a common pipe. Yet this is exactly what our current design of education attempts to do. It insists on conformance even as it supposedly offers so much ‘choice’ for students.

What so many educators, and more particularly education administrators and society in general, don't seem to grasp is that the early insistence on conformance systematically teaches students one thing. Don't think, even while verbally telling them that that is what they are supposed to be learning. When you force a student to take a course they are not interested in, and especially before they are ready, you have lost them. Sure they can flunk the course and take it again, but then what have you told them? That they are failures and ‘different’. You have begun the process of de-education.

What about the ‘successful’ students? The ones who make it through high school with a high GPA and go on to college, where they may continue to perform well. Well, the answer is in that word ‘perform’. All too many of these students have, in fact, learned the rules of the game and have figured out that the name of the game is perform the tricks. Find out what the teacher thinks you are supposed to know (no matter how trivial or rote), learn it, regurgitate it on an exam. They are especially successful on multiple choice, or supposedly ‘objective’ tests.

Now I must hasten to say I have had the somewhat unique (and very gratifying) experience of teaching a Global Honors class (the subject was Global Challenges) in which the majority of students were not of this ilk at all. They were genuinely intellectual beings with a continuing thirst for knowledge and a desire to actively guide their own education. We had explicit conversations about the nature of education and what they had experienced so far.

They were uniformly critical of their general educational experiences to that date (except for their other honors classes), and given my approach to pedagogy, which let them explore their interests while still being rigorous, were feeling the freedom of genuine exploration for the first time in their lives (OK, a few had had other teachers that gave them a similar treatment, but I like to think I punctuated those rare cases!)

The way I would generally characterize such students is that they had somehow survived the education system with their thirst for learning in tact! Believe me, as an educator who has long lamented the seeming lack of motivation of students to understand and not just memorize, working with this group was a cherished experience. I continue to keep in touch with some of them even today and it gives me a thrill when they question everything!

What genuinely amazes me is that the education profession does, in fact, understand this need to let students follow their own interests. We've set up so-called magnet schools that specialize in various areas (while still requiring students to go through the standard STEM-type curricula). Generally these schools are pretty successful in terms of enrollments and graduations. You would think that somebody in high places would wonder why this is, think it through, and realize this is what we should do generally.

Here is the key to a successful general education that would inspire those who naturally are inclined toward STEM subjects while not turning off everyone else (and some STEM candidates). What is the central question that every human being asks (themselves or God or...) all of their lives? Why is psychology the most favorite initial degree declaration among undergraduates? It is just stupidly simple. Every person wants to know who they are, why they are here, and how do they relate to the rest of the world. It is the fundamental nature of autonomous, conscious beings (even if they are not super sapient!) to want to sort out these kinds of questions before worrying about what an atom's valence electron cloud is.

Where and when in the modern education system do these kinds of questions get addressed? I'm not suggesting that we educators have the answers and should just give them to students. We don't. In fact, our current system indirectly answers these existential questions with the answer: “you are just another brick in the wall” (Pink Floyd!). Oh sure, it isn't explicitly given. But the whole experience of education imparts that answer along with another dictum: “don't worry about those other questions, just earn a good living so you can have lots of stuff and you will be happy.”

What we do have is the knowledge that these are the most important questions that all of us ever ask. Just acknowledging these questions early in the education process would help a great deal. The rest is about framing these questions in the context of all the knowledge that we humans have garnered over all these millennia. If you can work in the fact that a great deal of why we are here is tied up in the valence cloud of carbon atoms you will find students are a great deal more interested in chemistry! You have to connect the knowledge of all the various areas to these fundamental existential questions. You have to help students discover that the world works in a certain way and that that way is what helps explain their being here in the first place.

In the end every individual has to find their own meaning and purpose in this world. That is what they are attempting to find from the very beginning of their lives (even in the womb!) Education shouldn't be forcing answers on them, it should be providing the background knowledge that allows them to construct their own interpretation of reality and their own place in that reality. In simple terms, education should be about supporting humans to self actualize.

Human contribution to society, productivity, and all of these social attributes that we strain to produce are natural outcomes of each human being being themselves. We do not have to frantically pound them into the skulls of our children and young adults. Given the right educational environment, they will work it out themselves. They start out as seekers and their whole lives are lived on their own pathways. But along the way they do glimpse bits and pieces of the truth that give them purpose and happiness. They contribute to society by simply following their own paths. We are not meant to be bricks in a wall. But as things stand, that is exactly what we are producing under the current system. Only a minority of people manage to get through education without being molded and shoved into miserable lives that only find the illusion of happiness in a materialist existence.

I must admit that my own belief is that a curriculum based on systems science (see my series on this subject; last series in the index) but centered on the key existential questions, appropriate to the stage of development, of course, would provide a basis for allowing those students who will naturally gravitate toward STEM subjects to do so while allowing all others to follow their own paths. Done right I strongly believe that even students of the traditional humanities would be more informed in the sense that they would be prepared to deal with more technical issues (like the truth of global warming) as citizens than is currently the case.

Of course, as I said, this is for the future. For more background and links to my ideas on the University of Noesis see A Dream of Education for the Future.

* Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development members

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Taliban side of Video Gaming

SUBHEAD: Electronic Arts upcoming game release allows players to play against US troops in Afghanistan. Image above: Scene from "Medal of Honor" game where you are the Taliban. From article. It's a standard feature of World War II-themed video games like Electronic Arts' best-selling "Medal of Honor" series: In multiplayer sessions, while some players take the roles of Allied troops, the other half wind up playing as soldiers of the Third Reich. Now EA's next "Medal of Honor" release is set to up the discomfort factor that comes with such an option. Set in modern-day Afghanistan, it will allow users to play as the Taliban. Developer DICE has emphasized that it isn't trying to make any grand political statements with the game. Along with publisher EA, it says it's not possible to make a game about a contemporary war without including this kind of feature -- and facing the controversy that comes with it. "Most of us having been doing this since we were 7 -- if someone's the cop, someone's gotta be the robber, someone's gotta be the pirate and someone's gotta be the alien," Amanda Taggart, senior PR manager for EA, told AOL News. "In 'Medal of Honor' multiplayer, someone's gotta be the Taliban."
The new version of "Medal Of Honor" will allow players to play as the Taliban in multiplayer gaming. "It's a game," explained the title's producer.
While the Nazis in the old "Medal of Honor" came at the safe remove of history, having U.S. children portray Taliban insurgents trying to gun down U.S. forces via the game is indisputably more in-your-face. The game is also set to launch amid the deadliest stretch of the Afghan war for the American military, which has lost more than 1,200 soldiers in the conflict so far. "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2" caused a stir when it allowed the player to take part in a terrorist attack on a Russian airport, and that wasn't connected to a real American war. One gamer who got to play an early version of the game couldn't help but feel conflicted. Dan Whitehead wrote at eurogamer.net:
"Watching virtual coalition troops gunned down by insurgents in the ruins of Kabul, I felt more than a little weird, especially since a friend lost his brother in Afghanistan only a few weeks ago. This is a real war that is happening right now, real blood is being shed, and simulating that for fragfest fun while being rewarded for kill streaks. ... Well, there's just something a bit icky about that.
But Joseph Olin, president of the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences, argues that depictions of war shouldn't be pretty to start with. He also feels that a role of the arts in wartime should be facilitating empathy for the enemy. He told AOL News:
"In all combat simulations that we've entertained ourselves with, from pen and paper to movies and literature, you've always been able to experience combat from the enemy's perspective. That's always been a draw about some of the best films that have been done about World War II."
At the end of the day, "It's a game," the title's producer, Patrick Liu, told PSM3 magazine, adding that DICA and EA had no intention of provoking a reaction. American Legion spokesman Marty Callaghan seemed to agree about the place the new "Medal of Honor" has in political discourse.
"The content of video games is not a concern of the American Legion. We are concerned with the real world, and the troops who are fighting overseas, and the veterans who have served their countries with honors. We're concerned with that reality."
Game Developers have tread dangerous waters before when Konami planned to publish "Six Days in Fallujah," a planned Iraq war game that the company claimed was even developed with input from insurgents. That game, however, was ultimately scrapped due to political considerations. Video above: Ultra-Realistic modern warfare game features awaiting orders, repairing trucks. From (http://www.theonion.com/video/ultrarealistic-modern-warfare-game-features-awaiti,14382). See also: Ea O Ka Aina: Military Welcomes Students 7/19/10 Ea O Ka Aina: Globalized Free Fire Zone 6/27/10

Kaumakani - Toxic Village

SUBHEAD: Westside GMO experimentation will be worse for our environment than Gay & Robinson sugarcane.  

By Bobby Ritch on 15 August 2010 in the Garden Island News -
 
 
Image above: Tractor kicks up red dirt on what was once Gay & Robinson cane field in Kaumakani. From (http://www.panoramio.com/photo/10825652).

[IB Editors note: Booby Ritch is a resident of Kaumakani, where Dow AgroScience GMO activities are centered.]

On August, 6, The Garden Island ran a front-page article on the drought showing a color picture of former Gay & Robinson plantation sugar fields up to Kaumakani all dried up.

Then on August 9 on page A6, TGI ran another color picture of Kaua‘i Coffee plantation on the other side of Hanapepe River lush and green.

The difference is not caused by the drought but the GMO corn companies.

Fred Dente in his two TGI op-ed articles has been right: “Kaua‘i has long been the petri dish for planet Earth,” with a laundry list of chemical soil washing. When they (the GMO companies) prepare a field for planting, they kill everything in the ground, on the ground, above the ground, and anything around or near the site. Notice in the picture no koa growing, only at Hanapepe Heights, Salt Pond and Kaumakani Village.

This defoliation is caused by spraying of herbicide, insecticide, fungicide and rodenticide. Gone are the nematodes, ants, grasshoppers, bees, songbirds, hummingbirds, chickens, doves, rats, cats, bats, dogs, etc. Drive along the highway between Hanapepe and Waimea and notice you will not see any bugs on your windshield or birds on the lines. Only in the oasis of Kaumakani village and Pakala.
In those camps massive flocks of chickens during the day and cats at night destroy gardens and flower beds. Every morning when I pick up the newspaper in the driveway I smell some kind of -cide in the air.

My grandson was on the front page of TGI helping up his friend at Waimea Canyon School when they were hit twice and I removed my son from St. Theresa Kekaha before they were hit.

The chemical supervisor at the GMO in Waimea had previously put six G&R sugar employees in the clinic. This same person was spraying Roundup from the air instead of Polaris. Was atrazine used, a widely used herbicide? Moreover, is that now in Kaumakani/Pakala drinking water?

The state DOH and county DOW does not test our well water. So who does? Surfrider Foundation? They cannot even put a trash can for all the broken glass that litters one mile east and west from the Pakala surf spot. By the way, my rent was raised to pay for the EPA suit.

Whatever happen to the $300,000 from the county? Shouldn’t somebody in the G&R accounting or administration department do some jail time before rent was raised? People on the Westside should be concerned.

When their field trucks use the road they drop mud and dirt on the road which you take home in your fenders. Is Fido or Fluffy sick? Any sores on the kids? And what about the dust? I got more dust now then when sugar was here because we did not harrow up wind after 9 or 10. Also we never used the highway but at two junctions where a water truck was stationed. The drift on the dust and chemicals is two miles.

Fred Dente is right again when he says: “Even though many of the jobs go to non-union workers on temporary work permits from Micronesia and other places, and even though most of the profits these companies make go off to corporate headquarters overseas, they have the nerve to justify their existence here by telling us how many hundreds of millions of dollars they generate in their diabolical experiments.”

Out of 300 employees at G&R only 60 were hired, of that, 30 were former supervisors. You know, the guys that can wear the same clothes for two months without getting dirty, never seen a callous on their hands, and drive around all day and never get out their trucks. Yeah, the same guys that milked and broke Lihu‘e, McBryde, Olokele and finally G&R.

We sure have had many deaths, cancers, birth defects, and a list of health horrors since GMO came our way in the last two years. I hope Kaumakani doesn’t become Toxic Village, Hawai‘i.

See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: A Message from Dow GMO 6/29/10
Ea O Ka Aina: Dow's Toxic History 6/30/10
Ea O Ka Aina: A Seed of Doubt 4/9/10


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Things Fall Apart - Slowly

SUBHEAD: The industrial system is ending. Disconnect from it so its not your end as well.


By Sharon Astyk on 12 August 2010 in Casaubons Book -
(http://scienceblogs.com/casaubonsbook/2010/08/on_collapsing_-_really_really.php)

 
Image above: A once middle class neighborhood in "The Ruin and Renewal of Detroit". From (http://www.ektoplazm.com/2009/the-ruin-and-renewal-of-detroit)
 
Actually, it isn't all that slow, because a decade ago, all of this would have been largely unthinkable. The problem is that we don't see the gradual decline and fall - we are only vaguely aware that some things aren't quite what they used to be, and our progressive narrative tells us that they will soon be much better.

But the problem is that's not necessarily true - there's little evidence for it. Even the most optimistic economists (and I don't recommend the most optimistic economists) have to admit our long term economic problems are extremely pressing. Add in resource depletion and climate change, both of which we know are major drivers both of economic decline and other kinds - more natural disasters, more struggle over natural resources, less excess to cushion our choices, and what we are experiencing is decline, steady, inexorable, and very hard to pull out of.

And yet, our natural inclination, of course, is to view these as temporary inconveniences, not a fundamental decline. And, of course, the jury is out - but the mounting evidence suggests that we are going to have to run faster and faster just to slow our declines - much less keep pace. Consider this New York Times piece from last week:

Plenty of businesses and governments furloughed workers this year, but Hawaii went further -- it furloughed its schoolchildren. Public schools across the state closed on 17 Fridays during the past school year to save money, giving students the shortest academic year in the nation and sending working parents scrambling to find care for them.
Many transit systems have cut service to make ends meet, but Clayton County, Ga., a suburb of Atlanta, decided to cut all the way, and shut down its entire public bus system. Its last buses ran on March 31, stranding 8,400 daily riders.
Even public safety has not been immune to the budget ax. In Colorado Springs, the downturn will be remembered, quite literally, as a dark age: the city switched off a third of its 24,512 streetlights to save money on electricity, while trimming its police force and auctioning off its police helicopters.
Faced with the steepest and longest decline in tax collections on record, state, county and city governments have resorted to major life-changing cuts in core services like education, transportation and public safety that, not too long ago, would have been unthinkable. And services in many areas could get worse before they get better.
The length of the downturn means that many places have used up all their budget gimmicks, cut services, raised taxes, spent their stimulus money -- and remained in the hole. Even with Congress set to approve extra stimulus aid, some analysts say states are still facing huge shortfalls.
Cities and states are notorious for crying wolf around budget time, and for issuing dire warnings about draconian cuts that never seem to materialize. But the Great Recession has been different. Around the country, there have already been drastic cuts in core services like education, transportation and public safety, and there are likely to be more before the downturn ends. The cuts that have disrupted lives in Hawaii, Georgia and Colorado may be extreme, but they reflect the kinds of cuts being made nationwide, disrupting the lives of millions of people in ways large and small.

Fundamentally, this is different from everything else - violating the 180 day school year rule is different. Turning off the lights, shutting down public transport - these things are different. And they are signs of fundamental decline, of things that cannot be maintained. They are signs that we are not holding things together - and the reality is that at the state level, more and more things are not being held together. As a Salon piece by Glenn Greenwald, building on the Times one points out:

It's probably also worth noting this Wall St. Journal article from last month -- with a subheadline warning: "Back to Stone Age" -- which describes how "paved roads, historical emblems of American achievement, are being torn up across rural America and replaced with gravel or other rough surfaces as counties struggle with tight budgets and dwindling state and federal revenue." Utah is seriously considering eliminating the 12th grade, or making it optional. And it was announced this week that "Camden [New Jersey] is preparing to permanently shut its library system by the end of the year, potentially leaving residents of the impoverished city among the few in the United States unable to borrow a library book free."
Does anyone doubt that once a society ceases to be able to afford schools, public transit, paved roads, libraries and street lights -- or once it chooses not to be able to afford those things in pursuit of imperial priorities and the maintenance of a vast Surveillance and National Security State -- that a very serious problem has arisen, that things have gone seriously awry, that imperial collapse, by definition, is an imminent inevitability? Anyway, I just wanted to leave everyone with some light and cheerful thoughts as we head into the weekend.

I realize that probably a majority of readers (maybe not of my readership, though) will be skeptical of the idea of decline and fall happening in their world, of America and other Global North countries having to give up on basic assumptions. It will get better - we are told - in 2013 or 2014 or eventually, because it has to - we aren't remotely prepared for the alternative. And yet things do fall apart. Empires end, countries collapse, expectations decline.

As I wrote in an essay about what collapse actually is some months ago, collapse happens quite a lot actually, and what kind of collapse you have matters a lot:

When societies have collapsed, what actually happened? How bad is it? Are there ways of reducing the badness? While historic events can't give a totally accurate picture of the future, they can at least give us some ground to stand on.
When looked at this way, "collapse" is actually an extremely common phenomenon in nations and societies - societies rise to a particular level of function, they run into hard limits, often ecological limits, as documented by, among others, Jared Diamond in -Collapse: How Societies Choose to Succeed or Fail_, and Joseph Tainter in _The Collapse of Complex Systems_, and they fall to a much lower level of functioning. How low is up for grabs, and depends on the kind of response the society makes. At times this level can be extremely low - there's Easter Island for example. More recently several Rwanda and Burundi have several times in my lifetime collapsed into untenable violence and endless civil war, with horrifyingly bloody consequences for the people, ones that don't look that far off of Mad Max.
On the other hand, we could look at the most recent society that has collapsed - Iceland. In 2008 and into 2009, Iceland which had become enormously wealth and prosperous underwent an economic collapse, the effects of which are still playing out. The banking collapse in Iceland was the largest ever suffered, relative to the nation's size, in economic history.
What happened in Iceland is probably very reassuring for people who are worried about collapse - the situation wasn't at all pleasant for people, but compared to Rwanda, it was a walk in the park. There was rioting and the government was broadly speaking, changed, some suicides and emigrations. The costs of dealing with the crisis were enormous, there was widespread unemployment, interest rates shot up and imports stalled, there was a foreclosure crisis, many formerly high paying professionals had to go back to the fishing industry which promptly began to see fish stock collapses, imported goods became expensive, and people got a lot poorer. On the other hand, one's pickled kale was comparatively safe.
So the first thing we can say about collapse is that it is highly variable - you can have economic collapse, you can have an energy supply related collapse, a political collapse, collapse into civil war - and that some collapses are better than others.

The central project, in a collapsing society is to make sure your collapse is as good and mild a collapse as possible. But this is only possible when you have to come to the point of admitting that you are falling apart, and that the project is no longer to keep it together, but to mitigate the experience of collapse. Until we can stop pretending we are not falling slowly towards disaster, we cannot begin to do what is most needed - have an honest conversation about what resources we have and what we can and can't actually achieve.

Aiding us in our collective commitment to believing that this isn't really happening is the fact that we demonize the poor so very much - those poor cities, those poor people, we definitely assume that they and we could never have much in common. We have accepted the assumption for decades that there would be a radical difference between the kind of resources available to the poor and rich - we implicitly see as normal the fact that the poor die younger, lose their babies more often, have worse schools, face more pollution, have lower access to basic services.

So in some way we are able to rationalize this as more and more people are poorer as just the natural order of things - they are different than we are, and thus what happens to those other people, those other cities, those other states - that doesn't really say anything about us or our future. It is a very convenient story, although it is not true.

Because, of course, those others are us - I spent last weekend at a gathering of professionals from CAP, Community Action Programs, and of energy depletion and climate change folk. CAP is one of the largest and oldest agencies in the US providing services to low income people, with more than a thousand agencies in almost every county in the US. They administer almost half of all Head Start Programs and a range of services in rural, urban and suburban communities across the country that cover from cradle to grave.
The purpose of the meeting was to talk about how peak energy and climate change and our financial crisis will change the realities they are facing on the ground in low income communities. What is the future of the American poor? How can they begin to address changing realities and needs? And what is the future likely to consist of.

Those of us who came at this from the energy, money and climate end of this story had a remarkably similar narrative, given that we all have substantive differences in our thought in many ways. The folks from CAP know perfectly well that they are seeing populations needing their services that they've never seen before - that will continue. They know perfectly well that they are already overwhelmed by need - that will only continue and get worse. The one thing all of us agreed is that the future is poor - for most of us.

And what we can do to make the transition into a society where the middle class is hollowed out, where many people who were once making it are no longer, depends on how quickly we recognize the real likelihood that we're not going back. Only then can we make the difficult choices that deal with the resources we really have - and without the expectation that magic fairies dropping dollars, oil reserves or fewer climate disasters will appear. Only then can we begin from where we are and start asking, as CAP so bravely did "ok, now what."

And the answer to that is complex and profound - now we take care of people. Now we do everything we can to mitigate. Now we prioritize. Now we struggle - but struggle together as best we can. Now we find out what we are made of. Now we focus on subsistence and basic needs. Now we organize. Now we salvage. Now we focus on making life livable. Now we put all hands on deck.
But to get there, we have to accept that all hands are needed, that things are falling apart, and they can't be put back together without the work of every hand on this one, most necessary exercise. And that requires that we begin to see ourselves through the lens of a society that is falling apart.
It isn't a cheerful view. I do not blame people for preferring the idea that the funding will come back, that their own jobs, their own homes won't be affected because it is so much nicer to think that. But that's probably not true. Sometimes people ask me whether I think X or Y job or location will be immune - and the answer to that is that we don't know, but I wouldn't be my life and future on it. My colleague, Rhett Allain writes about the choices his University is about to make - and none of them are pretty:

I don't have a picture of this storm, but basically, the universities in Louisiana are going to have seriously reduced funding. How is Southeastern Louisiana University going to deal with this? Who knows. All they have done so far is lay off some staff and cancel the French program. Here are some of the possible things they could do to meet the rest of the budget deficit:
Axe some more programs. What to cut? Some say low-completer programs. Physics is a low-completer (true at most universities)
Everyone gets a 20% pay cut.
Fire the highest salary people (full professors) and re-hire them as instructors.
Charge faculty $7,000 for a parking tag.
No longer provide faculty with pencils. Instead, they must provide their own.
So, you see, some of these things could really suck. Suck to the point of me having to leave (especially if I get fired).

Most of us can be expected to spend the next few years struggling with unpretty choices - but we have the option, if we are prepared to go forward, of not struggling alone.

See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: The Story of "Here" Begins 8/14/10
Ea O Ka Aina: Governments go to Extremes 8/7/10

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The Story of "Here" Begins

SUBHEAD: Mapping the geography of home by the distance one can day trip to on foot. Image above: Empty church lot used for overflow parking before New Leaf Gardens. From article. By Alan Wartes on 12 August 2010 in The Story of Here - (http://thestoryofhere.blogspot.com/2010/08/story-of-here-begins.html)

The day’s work is done at New Leaf Gardens, the half-acre urban farm my family nurtures and tends in Colorado. We have worked since early morning, watering and weeding. The sun is nowhere near the horizon, but today is unusually hot; we’ll sit out the mid-afternoon heat indoors. It is early August and the harvest will crescendo soon—hitting a high, green note the plants will sustain through September; well into October, if we are lucky. At this altitude (5,400 feet) anything can happen after the equinox.

But, for now, an expectant gathering of green tomatoes grows heavy, tipping toward a cascade of red. Pole bean vines strain skyward, clothed in brand new white and yellow blossoms; slender, crisp beans are only a few days away. Cucumbers, peppers, squashes, cabbages, onions, carrots, beets, cantaloupes, pumpkins, eggplant, Brussel sprouts, potatoes—all are queued up for their turn, a dramatic entrance foreshadowed since Spring.

I close the gate behind me, tired and satisfied. Until this year, weeds and gravel had ruled this ordinary corner lot—though, on paper, the deed assigns ownership to the Valley Vista United Methodist Church. Through the years the space has been used as a part-time parking lot; makeshift baseball field for neighborhood kids; convenient turnaround and storage yard for county paving equipment when the streets needed maintenance; a shortcut for pedestrians headed for the library across the street, or to the post office two blocks away. It was a place to drive by or pass through, certainly nothing to look at.

Not anymore. Last November my wife and I sat around the dining table with our adult children to discuss a brave new family venture: Neighborhood Supported Agriculture. Outside, an early snow was falling; inside, winter had already begun to melt as we warmed to the possibilities of spring.

For years we had grown an astonishing amount of food in our own yard. Now we felt ready to kick things up a notch. We tossed around ideas for asking the neighbors (none of whom we knew well) to let us plant in the unused corners of their property, in exchange for a share of the vegetables. As successful as that approach can be, all evening long an alternative image kept forming in my mind of the empty, disregarded little square of church land, just a block away from the kitchen where we’d gathered. Wouldn’t it be fun to put all that food in one place—in the open, where neighbors might be drawn to it? Could this be the elusive nucleus around which local community might form?

In December, I approached the leaders of the church with a proposal. In January we signed a three-year lease for a modest sum. In March we got to work—building a fence and creating raised beds on top of the less-than-suitable native soil. Sure enough, within a few days curious neighbors began stopping by to see what was up. In just weeks we went from knowing virtually no one nearby to forming friendships with a couple dozen people (and counting).

The neighborhood that had once looked like an impenetrable wall of drawn shades and locked doors was filling up with smiling people, each with a story to tell, each enthusiastic about our project. They’ve offered us tools, labor, encouragement, grass clippings and kitchen scraps for the compost pile, even pitchers of lemonade on hot days. In a variety of small ways the project began to belong to all of us.

Now, in steadily increasing numbers, these neighbors come and buy produce every Saturday morning at a stand we’ve set up just outside the fence. Many of them walk from home to shop for fresh organic vegetables—in America! For them, there is no mystery about where the food comes from, or how it is grown. The farm is an open book. Compared with petroleum-soaked industrial agriculture, the carbon footprint of this food would fit many times on the head of a pin.

Farming by hand can be a meditative occupation. If I allow it, my mind and body begin to synchronize with sun and earth time. Ordinarily, the wavelength of change in maturing plants is imperceptible to modern people raised on restlessness. In a garden, nothing discernable to human senses happens in an hour or a day, much less within our ever shrinking attention span.

That’s a shame, because the amplitude of this slow moving, verdant wave—that is, its capacity to carry creative energy and information—is enormous, practically limitless. To someone whose internal clock is set to Play Station time, this sounds ridiculous. Stand still in a garden; what do you see? Nothing much.

The only motion comes from an occasional breeze; the only sound from drunken honey bees. Yet, to beets and onions slowly swelling beneath the soil, the human habit of measuring things in gigahertz—a cycle that completes itself a billion times a second—is pure science fiction. “Miles per hour” is an absurdity. All is here. Everything is now. No need for a high speed chase through existence. The attentive and willing farmer begins to know this too.

But, today I must reluctantly admit that my mind has been elsewhere. As I head for home on foot, I am aware of how preoccupied I’ve been with the usual scary events “out there”: Wall Street oligarchs and their ruthless power plays; environmental catastrophe; rumblings of war (and not just the “little” kind we’ve grown used to. Big, capital “W”, War).

I have spent the day worrying about the fate of the Gulf of Mexico; the state of the Greek economy; the deployment of warships in the Persian Gulf; oil field depletion rates in Saudi Arabia and what they mean for the future of civilization. If thoughts were made of lead, these would be heavy enough to sink a battleship.

I keep walking toward home, still thinking, still tired—and, with each step, growing more tired of thinking. Looking up, I notice for the first time the cumulonimbus cloud throwing its skirts up and out over the mountains in the west. The sky has grown dark enough to promise rain, but not so much as to threaten hail or tornadoes. The breeze quickens, cooler than it has been all day. I lift my hot and sweaty face and breathe deep. My step feels a little lighter.

I pass by Claudia and Vern’s house (two of my newfound farm friends) and it occurs to me that I haven’t seen Vern for three weeks now. They are past retirement age; an extended absence might well be bad news. Why didn’t I notice sooner? I make a mental note to drop by tomorrow. Just then a young boy, nine or ten years old, whom I’ve seen often since starting to make this daily walk to and from the farm, zooms past me on his black and red bicycle. He turns off the street into a driveway and, without slowing, runs his front tire into the weathered fence beside the house. “Yeah!” he says with gusto, after barely avoiding becoming a crash dummy. Clearly, a soul bent on adventure.

I am nearing the corner now, where I’ll cross another street to my house. Before I do, I see a young woman, mid-thirties perhaps, sitting on the concrete steps of her front porch, smoking a cigarette. She wears loose fitting gym shorts and a baggy T-shirt. Not that her clothes are far too big; she is too thin. Her shoulders sag forward as if she has run out of reasons to sit upright. She suddenly speaks, her voice a weary drone, and I realize she is cradling a cell phone under her limp blonde hair. I just got back from the hospital, she says. My husband’s leg is infected. They told us he has severe diabetes. It’s bad.

By the time I reach my front door, the tectonic plates in my mind have begun to shift. I remember an anecdote I once heard describing this idea:

Whatever we concentrate our attention upon is what we will see—is all we will see, no matter what else is present. In the illustration, a man is driving a car through paradise, surrounded by magnificent landscapes. He is nevertheless convinced the world is a dangerous and dirty place—all because his eyes are fixed, not on the breathtaking beauty beyond the glass, but on the car’s dusty and bug-stained windshield. He is focused on things that, though they may be equally “real” (bug guts, road grime, and other global issues), they are not equally important to local life.

They are two-dimensional and inert, signifying nothing about life where he actually is. Here’s the lesson for me: If the world appears hopelessly flawed, maybe it is only an illusion, created when global problems too large to grasp are superimposed over life where real trouble (usually) comes in more manageable, less overwhelming sizes. Perception trumps reality.

Compared to the average American, I am well informed. I have spent a lot of time educating myself about current affairs. I know what mortgage backed securities and credit default swaps are, and why they spell big economic trouble for the foreseeable future (no matter what anyone says about “green shoots”).

I understand what geologist M. King Hubbert predicted in the 1950s about the inevitable decline of world oil production, and can cite plenty of current evidence to suggest he was absolutely right. I can talk geopolitics with you long into the night. I am well versed in the science of climate change. I know that Arctic sea ice is shrinking; the oceans’ phytoplankton are disappearing; methane is outgassing by the ton from melting permafrost. I am generally aware of humanitarian conditions in the Gaza strip; Sudan; Congo. I know how much Bill Clinton is planning to spend on Chelsea’s wedding cake (though I wish I didn’t).

What I don’t know is the name of the obviously frightened woman who lives a stone’s throw from my house, or what her family needs to survive her husband’s illness. I know a lot about “foreclosures” in America, but nothing about the “foreclosed” who live (or who used to live) nearby. I can tell you about the effects of globalization on Ethiopian coffee farmers, but I have no idea who or what was here before this place was “developed” in the 1950s and joined to that amorphous geographic entity called the “suburbs”. I know Mexico is melting under the withering heat of drug violence and economic stress, but I can’t tell you my next door neighbors’ story—except that his name is Juan and he speaks little or no English.

In other words, for all my work as a community activist, helping to create New Leaf Gardens and bring affordable, locally grown, organic food to my neck of the woods, at heart I’ve been a “windshield” kind of guy. How disappointing. Something’s got to change.

But wait. All those seemingly distant global problems are real. They truly are likely to erupt like stirring volcanoes and to dramatically alter the landscape of our lives. Ignorance of the world is never a wise strategy. To be informed is a prerequisite to good citizenship. Some of the informed argue that the signs “out there” point to a fast crash of life as we have known it. Vulnerability to sudden catastrophe, they say, is hardwired into complex systems, an inevitable price of technological advancement. Others believe that entropy—the tendency of all things, civilizations included, to move toward disorder and lower states of energy—drags on complexity like friction, assuring us of a slow and grinding deceleration, what author James Howard Kunstler calls “The Long Emergency”. I’ve spent a lot of my adult life swinging between these two poles, trying to discern the truth of the matter.

Image above: Photo After - New Leaf Garden is the center of "Here". From article.

Today, I realize something new and startling: It doesn’t really matter. Why? Because when the dust of the fast crash settles, or the grind of steady decline has finally reached a standstill—either way—my world will have shrunk radically and irrevocably. “Collapse”, it turns out, is an apt word, because it implies that what was large and expansive (globalized) will soon be small and immediate (localized). In any scenario you care to spin up, the end result is the same: The frontier of daily life moves much, much closer to home. Food, water, politics, security, health care, even information and entertainment—all of the basics of life—will come from places nearby, or not at all. Not only will riots in Paris have no power to help or harm anyone in my neighborhood, we may well lose our ability to know they ever even happened.

Here is the stark truth of it: In a “powered down” future—the one almost certain to follow the end of the era of “Hydrocarbon Man”—the practical size of my collapsed world (and yours) could well be defined like this: How far can we walk away from home and back again in a single day?

My own answer? About ten miles. And that’s optimistic.

With this thought in mind, I go into my office, take out a map of Denver and tack it to the wall. I stare a long time at the tangle of abstract lines and the shapes they form. Areas administered by the county I live in are white. Municipalities are blue, pink, yellow, and tan. Numbered streets run east and west; boulevards with other names, north and south. I search for patterns in the naming, but am usually stymied: Why should Kipling and Wadsworth be followed by a street named for a general: Sheridan? Symbols logically pinpoint schools, churches, fire stations—but why cemeteries? Where are the gardens? Where are the shops still owned by people who live here? Where do the geese nest in spring? Where is the best hill for sledding in winter? Where are the subversive poets gathering tonight?

I look for meaning in the map, for an answer to the questions growing larger in my mind by the minute: Where in the world am I? What and who shares this place with me, right here, right now? Of course, for this purpose the map is useless. If you need to know how to get “there” a map is just the thing. If you want to know what’s there that is worth getting to, you are on your own. I am on my own.

So be it. I put a pin in the precise location of New Leaf Gardens. From now on it will mark the center of the world. I draw a circle, centered on the pin, with a radius of ten miles—the new size of my world. Territories beyond still exist, of course. But I will now give their goings on the same attention I presently devote to the current cost of coffee in Constantinople.

So much for the easy part.

Now comes the real work, the true turning point in the drama. This is the pivotal moment when the story of my life officially becomes the story of this place. I’m astonished to realize what a large area my circle encloses (roughly 314 square miles). I’ve driven through some of it, flown over it once or twice. But after living here six years, it is shocking to discover how little of it I truly know. Now, like a nineteenth century anthropologist, I will set out to explore this terra incognita—and to do it, as much as possible, on foot. What I seek will never be found out the window of speeding car.

The purpose of this chronicle is to report back what I find—people; places; Earth, Air, Fire, Water—and the fifth element, Spirit; plain sight ugliness and hidden beauty (and vice versa); the artist and the artless; angels and demons; what works, what doesn’t; yesterday’s waste and tomorrow’s raw material; backrooms where God has left His fingerprints on everything, and others where He hasn’t been seen for a while.

What do you know? I don’t feel tired anymore. Outside, a gentle rain has started to fall, refreshing the air and watering the earth. Inside, I’m all charged up, ready to get going. Purpose will revive you like nothing else can. Here’s mine: to find and tell The Story of Here: Mapping the Geography of Home. Join me.

[Publisher's note: Back in the 1990's my wife and I used to publish a newsletter/journal/almanac titled "The Gobbler" in upstate New York. We distributed it free to all the businesses within what used to be called "courtin' distance" from our house. That was the distance a boy might walk to visit a sweetheart. Since this was Amish country, that seemed to actually have some meaning in the area. We calculated that to be about seven miles, or a fifty square mile area.]

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Court Rejects Monsanto Beets, Again

SUBHEAD: Federal court rescinds USDA approval of genetically engineered sugar beets.

By Staff on 13 August 2010 in True Food Now - 
(http://truefoodnow.org/2010/08/13/federal-court-rescinds-usda-approval-of-genetically-engineered-sugar-beets)



Image above: Sugar beets being harvested. From (http://billingsgazette.com/news/state-and-regional/montana/article_ab4f535a-05fd-11df-a8bf-001cc4c002e0.html).  
 
Order Bans Planting or Sale of Controversial Crop. Court Denies Monsanto Request to Allow Continued Planting.

Today Judge Jeffrey White, federal district judge for the Northern District of California, issued a ruling granting the request of plaintiffs Center for Food Safety, Organic Seed Alliance, High Mowing Organic Seeds, and the Sierra Club to rescind the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) approval of genetically engineered “Roundup Ready” sugar beets.

 In September 2009, the Court had found that the USDA had violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) by approving the Monsanto-engineered biotech crop without first preparing an Environmental Impact Statement. The crop was engineered to resist the effects of Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide, which it sells to farmers together with the patented seed. Similar Roundup Ready crops have led to increased use of herbicides, proliferation of herbicide resistant weeds, and contamination of conventional and organic crops.

In today’s ruling the Court officially “vacated” the USDA “deregulation” of Monsanto’s biotech sugar beets and prohibited any future planting and sale pending the agency’s compliance with NEPA and all other relevant laws. USDA has estimated that an EIS may be ready by 2012.

Andrew Kimbrell, Executive Director of plaintiff and co-counsel the Center for Food Safety, stated, “This is a major victory for farmers, consumers and the rule of law. USDA has once again acted illegally and had its approval of a biotech crop rescinded. Hopefully the agency will learn that their mandate is to protect farmers, consumers and the environment and not the bottom line of corporations such as Monsanto.”

Paul Achitoff of Earthjustice, lead counsel for the plaintiffs, commented: “Time and again, USDA has ignored the law and abdicated its duty to protect the environment and American agriculture from genetically engineered crops designed to sell toxic chemicals. Time and again, citizens speaking truth to power have taken USDA to court and won.”

In his order, Judge White noted that USDA’s “errors are not minor or insignificant, and his “concern that Defendants are not taking this process seriously.” He also pointed out that “despite the fact that the statutes at issue are designed to protect the environment,” USDA and the sugar beet industry focused on the economic consequences to themselves, yet “failed to demonstrate that serious economic harm would be incurred pending a full economic review….”
The Court held in part:
…the Court GRANTS Plaintiffs’ request to vacate APHIS’s decision to deregulate genetically engineered sugar beets and remands this matter to APHIS. Based on this vacatur, genetically engineered sugar beets are once again regulated articles pursuant to the Plant Protection Act. This vacatur applies to all future plantings…
This is the second time a Court has rescinded USDA’s approval of a biotech crop. The first such crop, Roundup Ready alfalfa, is also illegal to plant, based on the vacating of its deregulation in 2007 pending preparation of an EIS. Although Monsanto took that case all the way to the Supreme Court and the High Court set aside part of the relief granted, the full prohibition on its planting – based on the same remedy granted here, the vacatur – remains in place. In the past several years federal courts have also held illegal USDA’s approval of biotech crop field trials, including the testing of biotech grasses in Oregon and the testing of engineered, pharmaceutical-producing crops in Hawai’i.
This case is Center for Food Safety v. Vilsack, No. C08-00484 JSW (N.D. Cal. 2010).

Today’s ruling can be found here.

See also: Monsanto Terrorists (http://jischinger.wordpress.com/2009/06/07/monsanto-terrorists)
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Soylent Grain

SUBHEAD: A talk on GMO corn to be given at the 'Raise Awareness - Inspire Change" GMO conference August 14th, 2010 at noon.

By Juan Wilson on 13 August 2010 for Island Breath - 
(http://islandbreath.blogspot.com/2010/08/soylent-grain.html)


Image above: Illustration derived from the original poster art for the movie "Soylent Green".  

I have been thinking about Kauai as at the fountainhead of a river. Rivers are part of natural cycles. But what flows from the river I’m thinking about is the genetically engineered high fructose corn syrup that is now drowning America. It’s corn syrup that sweetens the 3 liter bottles of Dr. Pepper that wreck our health.

High fructose corn syrup has been associated with increased obesity, diabetes and cancer. All big problems here in Hawaii. Over 80% of the corn in the USA comes from GMO plants. The kernels of destruction are created right here on Kauai. They are what sow the massive monoculture cornfields on the mainland. We on this island are trading a handful of local jobs for a planet full of trouble. I call this predicament Soylent Grain.  

PART ONE: Corn! It’s what’s for dinner!
 Besides sweetening everything from cheese dogs to tomato paste, GMO corn is the primary food crop of the United States. Monsanto, and Syngenta will tell you they are developing a wide variety of useful plants. Yes, there has been some “success” with alfalfa, tomato, potato, canola, rice and (relative to Hawaii) sugarcane and papaya. But in fact, there are only a few crops that have been proven suitable for the genetic manipulation GMO’s are looking for. It’s as hard as training a cat as a junkyard dog. Only two species have starred in the shape shifting roles of all-food-to-all-creatures.

The SOYBEAN and CORN.
All the potato and wheat grown in the United States doesn’t equal the soybean harvest. And all the soybean, wheat and potato don’t equal half the yield of GMO corn. As a result, the GMO corn industry has replaced just about everything else in America’s breadbasket. Almost all Americans eats GMO corn daily. How is that possible? Well, corn is what makes our meat, eggs and dairy products. It is the food of our factory raised beef, pork and poultry (that is corn with added antibiotics and steroids). We feed GMO corn our to our pets as well (that's what dry cat and dog food is - corn with meat like additives). And don’t forget our human cravings for ranch tostada chips and orange cheese doodles (that is corn with salt and artificial flavoring). Can I have a coke with that? King Corn, - The Soylent Grain - the Yellow Meat - is everywhere. Even in your gas tank. The GMO companies argue they are part of the GREEN REVOLUTION.

A revolution that promised to feed the hungry by increasing crop yield and nutrition. What resulted was the spread of fragile, environmentally damaging monocultures with the loss of indigenous farming practices. The Green Revolution that began in the 1960’s also produced a population explosion that made us even more dependent on mechanized agriculture, pesticides and synthetic fertilizers... And that brings us to the fossil fuels. Sonia Shah, in her book “Crude: The story of of Oil” calls it Petrofood.

That’s a foodchain that requires ten calories of oil energy for each calorie of food grown. We are so dependent on crude oil for food that any prolonged interruption of the oil needed for farming could mean mass starvation. In 2008 we saw what happened when oil flirted with $150 a barrel? The world economy crashed. In many places there were food riots. The GMO business model is to produce not only seeds they sell, but the petrochemicals needed to keep them alive. Genetic engineering has been focused on the patenting of their RoundUp-Ready seeds AND the RoundUp too.

This has shown to be most profitable with farming that requires large scale operations needing massive inputs of those petroleum based products. The result is a farming monopoly for just a handful of industrialized corporations based on corn... Monsanto, Dow, Cargill, ADM, Tyson, Hormel, Armour, Kraft, Frito-Lay, Pepsi, Coke, etc. The reality is that American agribusiness seeks the control of nature as if it was an industrial process with infinite growth potential. GMO corn is the centerpiece of that agriculture. The corn outlets are the supermarkets where we go to get the stuff from which to make human beings. And more and more that stuff comes out of a blister package or a freezer, sent from a processing plant and genetically designed in a laboratory... Soylent Grain.  

PART TWO: Whirlpools in the stream of life
 Here’s a part of a NEGATIVE ECOLOGICAL FEEDBACK LOOP - Turning crude oil into corn syrup into sewage! The watershed of the Mississippi is the Corn Basket of America. Every year there is massive runoff of topsoil, synthetic fertilizer, and pesticides from those fields down the Mississippi River and to the Gulf of Mexico.

This year it produced an oxygen deprived deadzone the size of Massachusetts - and that’s not counting the deadzone produced by the BP gusher. But that IS where is our domestic crude oil for producing corn is coming from - the badly regulated offshore oil rigs in the Gulf. In effect, the Gulf is precariously supplying the petrochemicals used to produce GMO corn that creates the runoff back to the Gulf. This is not a resilient ecosystem. Eventually more people on Kauai will see that the GMO companies are the fountainhead of a business of producing pesticides and synthesized food with no real benefit to our island.

There will be less land and water for farmers on Kauai because Pioneer and Dow are here. Unless... There are two possible ways the negative ecological feedback loops of industrial food production will be broken. PLAN “A” - The Corporations (don’t laugh now) could do it themselves. At first glance it seems these corporations to have no way out of their mandate to make short run profits. But they are not stupid organizations. They know they’re playing out a game that will end with any serious disruption of our fossil fueled economy. We saw what happened in 2008 when oil flirted for a brief time at $150 a barrel. These corporations could act on what they must already know. That the continuation petroleum dependent corn is a timebomb that cannot feed the world.
Could, for example, Syngenta turn its sophisticated R&D capacities here on Kauai, towards research on to improved permaculture techniques? Wouldn't they thrive in a such a new paradigm? Could the team at Dow Agroscience find a way to make sugarcane fields support small organic farms profitable that people could live on? Wouldn’t that provide more and better jobs here?
I think these things possible - but we would likely first have to see a deeper disruption to our growth-at-any-cost economy. We certainly should encourage the GMO’s to participate in saving the world. It couldn’t hurt. However they may just decide pump out corn syrup until there is no more oil to be pumped. If that’s their choice we’ll have to move on to PLAN “B” - We will have to begin where we can - in our own back yards and kitchens. Here’s a part of a POSITIVE ECOLOGICAL FEEDBACK LOOP.

Transforming earth into vegetables and back into earth again. In other words we use our backyard garden leftovers to feed composting worms to make soil for our backyard garden vegetables. John Michael Greer is the The Grand Archdruid of the Ancient Order of Druids in America. He is the author of "The Long Descent: A User's Guide to the End of the Industrial Age". In a recent article, on his website “The Archdruid Report”, he writes: “The humble and lovable compost bin is the template on which the entire structure of any future sustainable society will pretty much have to be modeled.”  

PART THREE: Sustainable Pacific Islands
Besides relying on the backyard garden we should look to the Polynesian culture for ways to live on a tropical islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. The Polynesians thrived without a fossil-fueled-industrial-society. They did it without metal, using Stone Age technology, and yet they developed a rich and enduring culture. The Polynesians who landed here practiced what became the unique human expression that is Hawaiian culture.

It was developed from land use geared to what was sustainable on these finite islands. It focused on the bioregions, watersheds and ecological cycles of life here in Hawaii. Of course, that word “sustainable” is an overused word. It has relative meaning, but the Polynesians who landed here kept their finite-closed-system going for a millennium. They did it with far less damage to these islands than the Ango-Americans inflicted in less than two centuries of whaling, sugar plantations and suburban sprawl.

My background is in architecture and planning. Since 2006, beginning with the Malama Kauai Eco-Roundtable gatherings, and with the help of Jonathan Jay, I’ve been examining traditional Hawaiian land use. I’ve been trying to discover what the land units were the Hawaiian used to manage their lives. Much has been obliterated or forgotten, but enough seems intact to reveal many secrets of the past. The trick here is not unlike what Woodward and Bernstein were advised to do to the solve the Watergate mystery. They were told “Follow the money!” In the case of Hawaiian land use the key is to “Follow the water!” Where it comes from - what it touches and where it goes. Regarding HAWAIIAN LAND DIVISIONS - Here are some of the hierarchical levels I have become familiar with:

 One) Hawaii Nei - Islands in the Hawaiian nationstate -

Two) Mokupuni - An individual island of Hawaii Nei - Now this is where it gets more related to water flow.

Three) Moku - A bioregion of an island - Characterized by the ocean currents, rain clouds, wind, soil and topography of the island. Some stereotypical examples: the Moku of Kona, (the southwest leeward side); the moku of Koolau (the northeast windward side); the moku of Puna (the southeast springwater side); and the moku of Na Pali (the northwest cliffside).

Four) Ahupuaa - A watershed area within a bioregion - A land area bounded by a combination of ridges, shoreline and streams that was sufficiently large and rich enough to sustain a human community. Some ahupuaa are dry, some wet. Some are big, others small.

This Spring I was asked by the Aha Kiole Advisory Committee of the Western Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Council, to map the boundaries of the traditional ahupuaa and moku on the Hawaiian islands. So far I have submitted six islands to them so far - Kauai, Niihau, Molokai, Lanai, Kahoolawe and Maui. The results of that effort are here tonight, in the form of six paper maps. These maps results are also available for use with GoogleEarth and are online at the website www.islandbreath.org.

It is my hope that this work can be an aid in deeper understanding our Hawaiian backyard gardens, our ahupuaa. We are going to need them healthy. Here, at the Red Barn Gym of the All Saints Church, we are in the ahupuaa of Waipouli in the Moku of Puna. Puna includes all the watersheds between the entrance to Nawiliwili Harbor and Anahola Valley.

To the north of Waipouli, on the other side of the canal near Cost-U-Less, begins the ahupuaa of Kapaa. To the South of Waipouli, a bit before the Coconut Grove Marketplace, begins the ahupuaa of Olehena. Waipouli means Dark Water. Waipouli has some beautiful farmland but much of its upland forest has been removed. Also, the water from Olehena has been diverted by ditch across Waipouli to the canal by Cost-U-Less.

We all should know more about our own ahupuaa, because we are its fruit. That is what kamaaina means. And I suggest to the leaders of the GMO companies, if they want to last as long as the Hawaiians, that they try to understand their backyards better - My advice - Don’t follow the money. Follow the water!

[Please attend the GMO Conference. GMO Free Kauai will host a two day event, "Raise Awareness, Inspire Change" on Friday night August 13 and Saturday August 14 in Kapaa at the All Saints Church Gym (the Red Barn). for details click here.] See also: Ea O Ka Aina: Raise Awareness • Inspire Change 7/30/10

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